Teaching Grade 5 Structure and Properties of Matter

Tom Trettor
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Article , Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.


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5 Excellent

Because of time constraints, I didn't use everything in this lesson, but all of the ideas are great. My students loved everything we did, and they learned a lot. I highly recommend this lesson.


In the lesson outlined in this article, students use kinesthetic modeling to explain the states of matter. Solids have a definite shape and volume. Liquids have a definite volume, but take the shape of their container and gases take the shape of their containers and their volume is not definite.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 5
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

5-PS1-1 Develop a model to describe that matter is made of particles too small to be seen.

Clarification Statement: Examples of evidence could include adding air to expand a basketball, compressing air in a syringe, dissolving sugar in water, and evaporating salt water.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the atomic-scale mechanism of evaporation and condensation or defining the unseen particles.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students develop conceptual models and understanding of the particle behaviors of each state of matter. The lesson also shows how kinesthetic models can be used to explain the “behaviors” of each state of matter. Teachers should be very explicit that the goal is for students to develop an explanatory model. There might be a discussion or mini-lesson on the different types and uses of models leading to the desired outcome of students understanding that their model should help them explain their thinking. It is recommended that teachers reconsider the use of the humidifier as an example of water vapor because such water is technically still in a liquid phase.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Student might be asked to participate in a scientists’ meeting after the formative assessment, giving students a chance to explain their thinking, ask questions of their peers or build on the ideas of their peers.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The article is very complete in terms of teaching this concept in the classroom. To help solidify student understanding, the teacher could read a text or show a video. For example, this video might be helpful: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/ks3/science/chemical_material_behaviour/particle_model/activity/

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students might be asked to explain or develop a model that demonstrates that matter is conserved--perhaps by drawing the same number of particles in the different phases. One way to do this with a bottle and balloon. The bottle has a deflated balloon on it. Students weigh it, then put it in hot water and watch as the balloon expands. The teacher removes the balloon and students weigh it again. Then they draw what the particles look like in each bottle. (They both have the same number of particles as it was a closed system. The weight was the same in both.)

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: All three dimensions work together to support students sense making of phenomena are demonstrated. Students are asked to “act out” particle models before asking them to develop their own illustrated models of particles in systems where weight is conserved.

  • Instructional Supports: The lesson engages students in authentic, observable scenarios that require them to make sense of observable phenomena. Suggestions for supporting all students are supported, such as asking students to model matter particles kinesthetically and with illustrations in the instruction. The teacher can have students record what is happening to support the kinesthetic learning.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Direct, observable evidence of three‐dimensional learning is elicited by students using practices with core ideas and crosscutting concepts to make sense of phenomena and/or to design solutions. Formative assessments of three‐dimensional learning are embedded throughout the instruction.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: There are no technological elements to this resource.